DEA shares warning about access to counterfeit pills online


DENVER — It only takes a few clicks on a smartphone to get a substance that can kill a life, according to the Denver Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“You don’t have to go to a dangerous street corner or the dark side of town to buy these drugs anymore,” said David Olesky, assistant special agent in charge of the Denver division. “With the right code words and three or four taps on your phone, you can have these pills delivered to your location of choice anonymously.”

Among the counterfeit pills that have been seized in the last six months of 2021, Olesky said their office discovered counterfeit oxycodone and counterfeit Adderall.

“In the last few months of the past year, Mexican cartels have now introduced counterfeit Adderall pills,” he said. “While we also see pills containing fentanyl, we also see methamphetamine used as an active ingredient in [counterfeit] Adderall pills.”

The drug, Adderall, is prescribed for attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder, but teenagers and college students have been known to use it as a “study drug.” Olesky said when teens get Adderall without a prescription, they can’t be sure they’re getting a pharmaceutical-grade product.

He went on to say that emojis can serve as a way for children to buy and sell drugs online.

“The rocket symbol will represent power, or you could have other emojis that represent a drug user. The hip emoji, if used in someone’s nickname or name that represents they is plugged in or connected to a source,” Olesky mentioned.

While emojis themselves aren’t enough to indicate illegal activity, Olesky said parents should be alert if they see them being used in conjunction with changes in their child’s mood or lifestyle.

“One might want to start having these difficult conversations with the individual and make them aware of this message that we share with everyone that these drugs are so deadly,” he said.

The DEA has an emoji reference guide as part of its “One Pill Can Kill” campaign.

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